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What the heck is this thing?


cvga
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I recently bought a bunch of commodore 64 hardware and software. There were two disk drives. One of them has a brown box attached. Any ideas what this is used for? Clearly, one dip switch changes the drive from #8 to #9. I'm not sure why that's useful though since you can chain drives together. Have you seen anything like this? Why would someone go through the effort to install it?

 

IMG_1282.jpg

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The device number on each drive is set either by soldering pads on the circuit board, or in newer 1541-II and later drives, DIP switches on the back of the drive. The one on the picture doesn't have any DIP switches by factory default, so even if you daisy chain several of them, all will want to listen to device number 8. The item you got apparently substitutes the DIP switches, and has additional switches to enable soft write protect, a reset button and two switches to toggle the reset behavior: should the entire serial chain be reset including the computer and other drives, and should the actual drive be reset when you push the button? I suppose there are cases where one would want a combination of behaviors. If both are set to OFF, I suppose nothing happens when you push the button.

 

However I can't recall ever have seen or read about a device like this. Does it connect with the 6-pin serial cable and sits inbetween the computer and the drive as an extra interface?

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Thanks. What year are those messages from? I'm guessing 2008 based on some of the other messages.

 

I haven't even tried to hook up the drive yet to see if it works. I've been cleaning everything up. I'll try to test it this weekend if I get a chance. I do want to take a peek under the hood eventually. There's quite a bit of documentation so maybe I'll uncover something specific to this device.

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From COMPUTE! Gazette, March 1986 (page 91):

1541 Controller
Micro Fabrication Systems has released 1541 Control, hardware controller for the 1541 disk drive. The unit, which mounts on top of the drive, gives you the ability to change the drive's device number, to double the disk storage with flip of a switch, and to reset the computer or drive independently of eachother. The entire system can also be reset. An illustrated manual accompanies the package. Suggested retail price is $34.95.

Micro Fabrication Systems, P.O. Box 1114, Delaware, OH 43015
Circle Reader Service Number 243

https://annarchive.com/files/Compute_Gazette_Issue_33_1986_Mar.pdf

Ahoy! issue 26 (February 1986), page 13:


1541 CONTROL
The 1541 Control ($34.95) mounts on top of the drive, allowing the user to change the device number, increase disk storage by 100%, and reset the computer, disk drive, or entire system. Installation is facilitated by an illustrated manual.

Micro Fabrication Systems, P.O. Box 1114, Delaware, OH 43015

 

http://www.commodore.ca/gallery/magazines/ahoy/Ahoy-issue-26.pdf

 

Since both magazines mention doubled disk storage capacity, I suppose that was part of the press release. I noticed your device is numbered 1541-3, so perhaps they had multiple models or revisions? The 1541 is single sided anyway, so the only way I can imagine capacity would be increased is to format up to 40 tracks (default is 35) and/or use some additional compression on top of the GCR encoding which already is space efficient. It could be nonsense as well.

Edited by carlsson
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From COMPUTE! Gazette, March 1986 (page 91):

 

https://annarchive.com/files/Compute_Gazette_Issue_33_1986_Mar.pdf

 

I'm not entirely sure how a write protect switch can double the disk storage capacity, but misunderstanding is also a form of understanding.

 

I noticed yours is numbered 1541-3, perhaps they had multiple models or revisions?

 

They probably meant that by disabling the write-protect, you can flip a disk over without having to cut a notch.

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Aha, clever! It is a bit convoluted way to explain the use of the switch though. I thought the switch would be used to soft protect writeable disks, but it probably makes more sense to make protected disks writable. Otherwise the switch would need three positions: default, always protect, always write.

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Thanks for the additional info carlsson. I may have that issue of Compute Gazette but would have never found that write-up.

 

I cleaned up the system, monitor and drive. The drive works so that's pretty cool. The red button only appears to reset the drive. There's also a red button on the side of the C-64 that resets the computer. You can see it in the picture I took of the drive.

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Devices like this weren't uncommon back in the 1980s. I have even seen a version that also included a display to show the track and sector that the head was reading/writing.

A contributor to Lemon 64 (Jim Drew) is talking about the possibility of re-creating some of this idea again.

 

 

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Devices like this weren't uncommon back in the 1980s. I have even seen a version that also included a display to show the track and sector that the head was reading/writing.

A contributor to Lemon 64 (Jim Drew) is talking about the possibility of re-creating some of this idea again.

 

 

 

Indus drive does this. There was an ad in older magazine to add the display feature to 1541 drive but it likely never got made. There's also a seller on eBay that has em: http://www.ebay.de/itm/1541-II-Trackdisplay-Bausatz-auch-fur-1571-1581-C128D-/351981146657?hash=item51f3b61221:g:~qgAAOSwB09YPCB~ (Germany only, no idea if he ships oversea or not)

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Indus drive does this. There was an ad in older magazine to add the display feature to 1541 drive but it likely never got made. There's also a seller on eBay that has em: http://www.ebay.de/itm/1541-II-Trackdisplay-Bausatz-auch-fur-1571-1581-C128D-/351981146657?hash=item51f3b61221:g:~qgAAOSwB09YPCB~ (Germany only, no idea if he ships oversea or not)

The Indus GT had some nice features. There used to be several of these boards made back in the '80s. People in our user group had a couple of different versions. I don't remember where they got them, but they were popular with the hardware guys.

I personally don't like butchering the cases.

Edited by motrucker
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Regarding that eBay seller, the other items he has posted will be shipped worldwide, except for not to Africa, Asia, Central America and the Carribean, Middle East, North America, Oceania, South East Asia and South America. I suppose that leaves the entire Europe and perhaps Antarctica as possible destinations. I seem to recall that Germany has strong regulations on electronics manufacturers and resellers, perhaps that is why it isn't meaningful to ship overseas.

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